Several years ago I read Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat. As I recall, I was in tears by the end of the first chapter. It is a beautiful, unbearably sad book. Breath, Eyes, Memory is in the same vein (and once again, I was crying before I was even 30 pages in).
It’s the story of Sophie, who is being raised in Haiti by her aunt, as her mother has emigrated to New York. When the story starts Sophie is about 12 and her mother has finally saved enough money to send for her. The book mainly explores Sophie and her mother’s relationship. It’s an unusual mother-child relationship, not just because the two were separated for Sophie’s first 12 years of life.
Edwidge Danticat is so, so good at writing relationships. Sophie’s relationships with both her aunt and her mother are so realistic and moving. I didn’t exactly like Sophie’s mother, and I disagreed with almost everything she did in this book, but everything she did made sense for who she was. Breath, Eyes, Memory is focused on women and what it means to be a woman, or what it’s supposed to mean. Its explorations of womanhood, virtue, and inherited trauma are frequently shocking and hard to read. It’s beautifully written, particularly the part where Sophie returns to Haiti as an adult. I don’t know that I would ever want to read this book again, due to the subject matter, but I think I can safely say that any book by Edwidge Danticat is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time.